The art of egg donation in Australia

9 April 2016

Written by: Katherine McLeod

In Australia, egg donors are in high demand. However current laws prohibiting monetary gain are driving potential donors away, as Katherine McLeod discovers.

In Australia the demand for eggs has increased over the years, however the number of egg donors has shrunk.

Several factors contribute, but a lack of voluntary donations paired with the invasive medical procedure of egg collection means that most donations come from family members.

Prohibitions by Australian law make egg donation complicated. The current laws state that donation must be for altruistic reasons.

This means that it must take place with the intention of helping others, with no financial benefit being received by the donor.

However a strong argument is being made for the payment of expenses and the medical costs of the donor.

Currently in Australia, there is a provision in the legislation that means reasonable costs stemming from the procedure, such as travel expenses, can be covered.

Dr. Michael McEvoy is a senior specialist and medical examiner at the Flinders Medical Centre, specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology, and has been practising both publicly and privately for over 30 years.

“The issue of payment for donation is clearly outlined by Australian legislation which prohibits any form of material benefit to the egg donor. This means that most egg donations come from friends or family who are aware of the situation of the infertile person,” he tells upstart.

Most people who enquire about egg donation do not understand how invasive and lengthy the procedure actually is, which includes checks and tests.

Taking roughly three months to complete, a course of counselling is also mandatory before the donation takes place, to make sure that the potential donor is absolutely sure of her choice.

Unsurprisingly, like many women her age, Keira* had thought of donating her eggs for monetary gain. It isn’t uncommon for women first looking into donation to ask about funds, however, without research, most women don’t realise the laws surrounding egg donation.

“I had looked it up after seeing a girl my age sell her eggs on an American television show. I thought that I could earn some money and help out a family at the same time,” she tells upstart.

“They didn’t discuss the procedure, just the money. And that’s what got me thinking.”

She was surprised to find what the situation is in Australia.

“I was a bit taken back when I looked into it. I mean, why shouldn’t women be allowed to be paid for their eggs? They are a part of us,” Keira says.

“I get doing it for a good deed, or to help someone that you love start a family. But for someone, like a student, who needs some money and is willing, I think that money would be a good incentive.”

Dr. McEvoy explains that in countries where donors can be paid, this could mean multiple operations for young people who may not understand the responsibilities that go with donating.

“In some countries, donors are paid considerable amounts of money for their egg donation. This commercialisation of donors not uncommonly means that younger people with a very good egg reserve may have multiple procedures to collect eggs,” he says.

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Egg donors legally can change their minds at any time, as long as it is prior to the fertilisation of the eggs.

Once fertilisation has taken place, the egg belongs to the recipient. An egg donor has no legal rights or any future responsibilities to a child who has been born as a result of egg donation.

However that isn’t to suggest that egg donation should be taken lightly.

“I would advise any people considering egg donation to seek professional help at an ethical and accredited fertility clinic to discuss their situation if they have not already done so. The logistics of egg donation can be discussed, and second opinions sought if necessary,” Dr McEvoy says.

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.

Katherine McleodThumb

Katherine McLeod is a third year journalism student at La Trobe. You can follow her on twitter here: @kattt_mcleod